Monday 9 July 2018
I had been looking forward to looking at this new lathe from Magma – an Austrian woodworking and tool supplier – since Mark asked me to test it. It looked lovely in the brochure and online, but as you know, it is not easy to make a value call from a photo. So off we went to sunny Suffolk and all was in place for me to try out the Magma Black Line TITAN 315.
On arriving at Classic Hand Tools, I saw the lathe in front of me and a big smile spread across my face. Initially I ran my hand across the machine and realised that this was a beautifully finished sturdy, robust and heavy-duty machine. If it had sinuous curves I would have called it almost panther-like, due to its black glossy finish.
The machine is massively constructed and modular in its construction. This has afforded Magma a design and manufacturing process which has allowed them to concentrate and beef up support and housing sections, thus providing absolute control of the rigidity and vibration dampening qualities of the lathe.
The lathe bed is centred around a central square hollow section heavy-gauge tube on which sit welded heavy-duty struts. These have 15/16mm (9/16-5/8in) thick, 67mm (2 5/8in) wide, milled bed bars attached to them.
It also has an adjustable leg support system so you can tailor the height to suit your needs.
The headstock is modular and is made from 15mm (9/16in) thick plate and other heavy-gauge components. There is also a 33 x 3.5tpi spindle thread with a 2MT internal fitting coupled with the massive 460mm (18in) between bearings, which support the spindle on the headstock.
The removable pin in the lower section of the headstock, just below the bed line, enables you to lock the swivelling headstock at 0, 30, 90 and 130° positions, but of course it can be used without the pin to locate in any position you choose.
There is also a 48-point coloured and numbered indexing ring on the end, and the locking mechanism for this is excellent. It is just a case of simply twisting and locating, and then twisting out to remove the indent lock – this makes it easy to see which hole you are in without craning your neck.
I am also pleased to say that there was no play in the indexing unit. If you choose, you can fit a nice wooden handle on this, which enables you to have a hand wheel on your lathe.
The headstock can swivel through 180° and be positioned anywhere along the lathe bed.
Motor & pulley assembly
The motor is housed neatly in the headstock and it has two pulleys: the first has a speed range of 250-3000 rpm and the second has a range of 83-1000rpm. The lower speed is great for large out-of-balance work and the top end is ideal for the smaller projects. The only downside is that one pulley tells you the true spindle-speed reading, but you have to mentally divide the indicated speed by 3.
It is mounted on a rising arc flange which is locked in position with a hex-head machine screw. This is slackened off to allow the belt to be adjusted so the motor can be raised and lowered. There is a shielding plate in front of the pulleys which has to be removed to access them and the belt, and the twist-knob mechanism allows you to release the plate.
Once the shield is lowered you can access the belt, lift the motor, change the belt and lower and lock both items in place, then you're ready for action. A micro switch is located which will not allow the lathe to be switched on until the cover is in place.
The inverter is held on an angled bar above the headstock and this displays the speed readout. A moveable speed control unit, attached to the inverter, has a magnetic back so that it can be moved into your desired position. There is a forward and reverse facility, and also a 10-point speed dial.
The toolrest assembly is a large assembly but despite its size and sturdy look, it moves easily. The locking and release mechanism is a lever cam system. It locks tightly, releases easily and a decent length levers. The locking plate underneath is massive.
The toolrest has a 40mm (1 5/8in) stem and has a welded cross-piece top to it which is sturdy and solid. The cross-section is also angled so you can get the supporting edge close to the work.
The shaft is held in place via a twist-handle on the side. There are two height positions for the twist handle to suit different lengths of stem on the toolrest used. I encountered no movement in this assembly when turning, even under heavy pressure at the extreme ends of it.
There is an adaptor to accept 30mm (1 1/8in) stemmed rests, which also give you the option of buying a make that suits your needs and preferences.
The tailstock, constructed of 10mm (3/8in) plate and tube, is easy to use and glides effortlessly along the bed when released. It is also easy to lock back in place with the large lever handle supplied. There is a decent-sized hand wheel to move the quill back and forth – also very easy to use.
The quill has a 3MT fitting and is hollow to allow for long-hole drilling. The top of the quill has a rule so you can work out the length of projection, which consequently helps when drilling. This also comes with a very generously sized locking plate. The tailstock can be slided off and on very easily, but it is very heavy. Also supplied is a removable metal stop on the end of the bed, which is held in place with a machine screw so you don't inadvertently slide the tailstock off when you are moving it along the bed.
I mounted a large out-of-balance piece of sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in a chuck on the spindle. I brought the tailstock up for support, as it was shaped, and also to see how easy it was to move the tailstock for such work.
I used a 16mm (5/8in) gouge to make heavy roughing cuts and refining cuts, then once the outside was shaped, I remounted on a spigot and turned the inside, all without any trouble. Not a hint or whisper of vibration or movement. The tailstock was easy to use, despite its size – the fact that it moves so easily helps no end – not only in centring work but also stabilising it.
I liked that fact there was a soft start-up, which is nice, and warns you that the lathe is about to start. This is so smooth in use; the power delivery is great, the controls are easy to use, and even with the headstock swivelled and the toolrest assembly in a long-reach situation, there was not a hint of instability.
Being able to swivel the headstock meant that I could stand in front of the project easily without bending over the bed, and this potentially hurting my back. The swivel facility is a real boon when working on large pieces and hollow forms.
The machine dampened vibration incredibly well. Even at 1500rpm on a 405mm (16in) bowl is was a dream – I am seriously having trouble finding fault with this lathe. It is comfortable to work at, and you don't have to expend a lot of effort in manoeuvring the headstock, tailstock or toolrest assembly.
I also mounted a large piece of square section pine (Pinus spp), which measured about 150mm (6in) x 150mm (6in) to see how the lathe coped with spindle turning. All parts, as mentioned already, moved easily and without hint of moving when positioned and locked down. The variable-speed facility was smooth in its incremental increase, with no hint of power fade with heavy cuts. The top end speed of 3000rpm was too fast for this size of project, but is a real boon for smaller items.
I can pontificate no end about the lathe, but as I am a plain-speaking chap all I can say is that I loved it. No matter what mode of turning I tried, I couldn't find anything to fault about this machine regarding its rigidity, vibration dampening, looks, power delivery or ease of use.
I only have one slight niggle and that is with the mental calculation on the speed of one pulley. This is a very minor thing and most of us adjust speed according to feel anyway and are not rigidly bound by the displayed speed reading. I really loved this machine. If I wanted a lathe of this capacity then I would certainly buy one. Now, where's my piggy bank…